Anyone who has listened to Jukebox knows my love of Koffee and her brand of reggae. She has released an EP Shine ahead of her debut LP release Gifted. Her previous EP Rapture in 2019 showcased her ability to merge reggae and hip hop, but her latest releases hint at a major reggae / pop crossover.
Up to this point, Koffee is mainly known from two EPs and guest spots in other hip hop or reggae tracks. However, that will all change with her upcoming full record Gifted. The worry is that someone who is used to smaller projects will put out a record with a series of disjointed singles, as opposed to a cohesive project with a singular sound / vibe. That is all food for thought as we wait for the record, but let’s focus on the track at hand.
Shine is the first track off of this teaser EP and I hope lays the roadmap to the entire Gifted record. Before we look at the lyrics, let’s see how the music is working together to create a pop crossover record. We start the track with classic reggae skank acoustic guitar in 4/4 time, which is hitting the down beat. This firmly grounds the track in traditional reggae dating back to calypso and dance halls. However, Koffee adds in some pop electro percussion, heavy base and some slight vocal post effects. These are all flourishes we associate with modern R&B / pop on Beiber, Amy Shark or Zane records. Koffee does an excellent job placing this track within both a reggae and pop context, which gives the track a lightness some of her heavy dub tracks lack.
Lyrically, Koffee sings about gun violence and the need for greater peace. She sings about waking up to sirens and violence in the city being exhausting as it wears down her soul. However, she keeps hope for peace and people having the chance to “shine” and chase their dreams. On the surface this may seem a bit generic lyrically; however, she sings about needing guidance by a higher power in order to reach what she cannot see. On the one hand, this is a classic reggae theme of Zion and Jah; however, it harkens back to the opening of the track where she is being worn down by daily violence. She need guidance, because in the midst of this violence she cannot see hope and at times needs Jah to help her back on the path. It is this section on the fragility of faith that lifts this track slightly above a trope heavy “violence is bad” track.
Now, not all tracks on the EP have lyrical depth, but it is good to see Koffee diving into more socially weighty topics. Similarly, she has a song about COVID lockdown and about the need for human connection / home within a time of distance / isolation. She has always been good at a turn of phrase, so it is good to see her tackle social and topical themes. I hope she continues and takes on issues of race and gender within her music….as well as fun songs about driving expensive cars and frontin’ on people. There’s room for both.
It is good to see new music from Koffee and to see her expanding her sound into a pop context. She is incredibly talented and it is great to see her finally put out a full LP. Her work has been well received in the past and this record has the opportunity to really help her break through. Be on the lookout.
Listen to Shine